Consistency, tradition, respect, greatness...these are just a few of the words that used to define Nebraska Cornhusker football. As the Huskers travel to Lubbock to take on Texas Tech, both teams are seeking to prove that those grandiose labels apply to them.
Nebraska is coming off a 52-17 loss to Missouri, while Texas Tech beat Kansas State 58-28 on the road. Bo Pelini is being given the benefit of the doubt in his first season at NU, and Mike Leach has been consistently breaking records in his eight years at Texas Tech. Both men probably deserve more respect than they’re getting for the programs they run.
For Nebraska, the key phrase is “used to.” After the Bill Callahan debacle, it was a great day in Lincoln when the old-school Pelini decided to attempt to right the ship. He faces a daunting rebuilding job in an absolutely loaded Big 12 conference. However, he does have some solid weapons at his disposal.
QB Joe Ganz runs Nebraska’s offense. On the season, he has completed 93-142 passes (65.5 percent) for 1,287 yards with nine TDs and five INTs—not great numbers, but he seems to have found a groove after throwing two of those INTs against Western Michigan in the season opener.
His backup is Patrick Witt, a freshman who has completed four of six passes with no TDs or INTs.
Multi-talented Marlon Lucky returns for his senior season at Nebraska. On the year he has run the ball 56 times for 232 yards (4.1 per carry) with four TDs. Lucky hasn’t lived up to his lofty billing coming out of North Hollywood High School in 2005, but he still has the tools to be very dangerous in the running game.
Lucky has also caught eight passes for 94 yards (11.8 per catch) with one score. Furthermore, he threw a 20-yard touchdown pass to QB Joe Ganz.
Behind Lucky, Roy Helu has run 32 times for 175 yards (5.5 YPC) with two scores. Quentin Castille and QB Ganz each have one rushing TD to finish NU’s scores on the ground this year.
Senior WR Todd Peterson leads Nebraska in receptions. On the season he has caught 22 passes for 268 yards (12.2 per catch) with one score. Senior Nate Swift is next on Nebraska’s receiving charts with 20 snags for 304 yards (15.2 YPC) and three scores.
Menelik Holt, Swift’s backup, is third on Nebraska’s receiving lists. He has 13 catches for 170 yards (13.1 YPC) and one score. TE Mike McNeill has caught eight passes for 163 yards (20.4 YPC) and three scores. Texas Tech will have to account for this talented sophomore much more than they did last week against the K-State TEs.
QB Ganz and RB Lucky have caught the other two NU receiving touchdowns.
Texas Tech Passing
Bad news for Nebraska fans: Graham Harrell is coming off his best performance of the season against K-State, and the senior is the reigning Big 12 Offensive Player of the Week.
Harrell has completed 158-237 passes (66.7 percent) for 2,027 yards with 18 TDs and three INTs. Harrell found a rhythm with the receivers against Kansas State last week and made fantastic plays look pretty simple. About the only thing he didn’t do was catch one of his own passes.
Backup Taylor Potts is 14-25 (56 percent) with no TDs and one INT.
Texas Tech Rushing
The three-headed monster at Texas Tech may have lost sophomore Aaron Crawford for the time being, but the other two haven’t missed a beat. Both Shannon Woods and Baron Batch were effective running the football and catching passes last week.
On the year, Woods leads the team with 61 carries for 346 yards (5.7 YPC) and seven TDs. Batch is close behind him with 41 carries for 308 yards (7.5 YPC) with three scores. WR Eric Morris, RB Crawford, and QB Harrell each have one rushing TD to finish Tech’s running scores.
Texas Tech Receiving
Michael Crabtree leads the Red Raider receiving corps. He has 38 grabs for 564 yards (14.8 YPC) with eight trips to the end zone. Sophomore Detron Lewis is next with 27 receptions for 397 yards (14.7 YPC) and one score.
Senior Eric Morris is next with 26 catches for 327 yards (12.6 YPC) and two scores. Freshman Tramain Swindall has recorded 19 catches for 230 yards (12.1 YPC) and one score.
My underachiever last week, Ed Britton, has 11 snags for 101 yards (9.2 YPC) and one score. Lyle Leong now has five catches for 64 yards and three scores after reaching the end zone three times in last week’s game. Fullback Ryan Hale’s one catch for four yards and a score finishes Texas Tech’s receiving stats.
This is a game that provides little excitement on the surface. However, a little digging will lead to the discovery that Texas Tech’s 70-10 win in 2004 was the largest margin of defeat in Nebraska history. Ironically, Nebraska’s 56-3 win in Lubbock in 2000 is also the Red Raiders’ worst loss in program annals.
Mike Leach has done an excellent job of avoiding letdowns so far this year—an important hurdle for a program attempting to prove it is a contender on the national scene. The Red Raiders will have to continue that solid play against a Nebraska squad coming off of two straight home losses against Virginia Tech and Missouri.
Bo Pelini has the experience and acumen to challenge Mike Leach’s spread and shred offense. However, he simply doesn’t have the horses to compete with Texas Tech’s bevy of offensive weapons this season. Couple that with Texas Tech’s solid offensive line, and you’ve got the makings of another Red Raider win.
Texas Tech: 52